It would be a very brave person who would call it junk at this stage.Count me as a very brave person. I claim that most of the human genome is junk and I'm not alone.
This is just one more example of the hype surrounding the ENCODE project. Read Ryan Gregory's summary at More about ENCODE from Scientific American for a good summary of what the study really says about junk DNA. The study does not say that all junk DNA has a function in spite of what you might gather from the podcast (below). The study does not say that the discovery of regulatory sequences in noncoding DNA is a breakthrough in our understanding of how genes work. In fact, as almost all of you know, the existence of regulatory sequences that control gene expression has been known for four decades. John Greally misses a good opportunity to educate the public about science and instead uses inappropriate framing to hype his own interest in gene expression. Shame.
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John Greely is the author of the News & Views article that described the original ENCODE work published in the June 14th issue of Nature. In that review he mentioned the role of regulatory sequences but focused much of his attention on the fact that large parts of the genome were transcribed. He expressed some appropriate skepticism of the results in the Nature piece but not when being interviewed on the radio. Is this appropriate? Is it what Nisbet and Mooney are talking about when they say that scientists should do a better job of framing?
[Hat Tip: Eye on DNA]